Sensory Issues in Children with Autism 

Living with autism can be extremely difficult, especially when it comes to sensory issues. Sensory issues are one of the most common aspects of autism and can affect every part of life from work to school to social situations.  

This article explores some of the most common sensory issues in children with autism, including how they can impact daily life, and ways to help them overcome those challenges. 

1) Difficulty Filtering Out Unnecessary Stimuli 
Sensory issues are a common symptom of autism, with children often having difficulty filtering out unnecessary stimuli from their environment.  

This can manifest in a variety of ways, including hypersensitivity to sound, light, and textures, or even hyposensitivity to temperature or other sensations. 

The resulting hyperarousal or hyperarousal can lead to stress and anxiety, further impacting a child’s ability to cope with their environment.  

2) Heightened or Lowered Responsiveness to Pain 
Children with autism often experience heightened or lowered responsiveness to pain. This is especially true for those on the more severe end of the spectrum. Those with a higher pain sensitivity may experience extreme discomfort from everyday experiences such as being touched, wearing clothes, and being in certain environments.  

On the other hand, some children with autism may have a much lower sensitivity to pain, not feeling anything when they get injured. It is important to be aware of these sensitivities so that parents and teachers can provide the appropriate care and support for the child.  

Understanding sensory issues in children with autism can help create an environment in which the child feels comfortable and secure. 

3) Extremely sensitive sense of smell 
Children with autism can often experience heightened senses, particularly with the smell. This can be an extremely distressing experience for children as they may become overwhelmed by strong smells in everyday environments, such as perfume or food odors. For example, a child might feel uncomfortable in a busy restaurant because of all the different smells.  

To help manage this situation, it’s important to create a sensory safe environment and provide coping mechanisms for the child, such as wearing a mask or using distraction techniques. If a child is particularly sensitive to smells, they may also benefit from having access to sensory toys or items that help to reduce their discomfort. With the right support, children with autism can learn how to manage and regulate their sense of smell. 

4) Very sensitive hearing 
Many children with autism may experience heightened sensitivity to certain sounds and noises. This can be overwhelming and exhausting for the child, as they are unable to block out and ignore sounds that can be quite uncomfortable to them. This is often accompanied by an extreme reaction to these noises, such as covering their ears, making loud noises of their own, or even experiencing a meltdown.  

It is important to understand this condition and provide accommodations so that the child can feel comfortable in different settings. Strategies such as wearing noise-cancelling headphones, playing music to mask background noises, and providing a quiet space for the child can all help to reduce the stress associated with very sensitive hearing. 

5) Poor fine motor skills 
Poor fine motor skills can be a common symptom of autism. It can affect a child’s ability to complete simple tasks like holding a pencil or using scissors. It can also impede their development of activities like handwriting, drawing, and using fasteners like buttons and zippers.  

Parents can help by providing appropriate toys and activities that will help the child develop their fine motor skills, such as puzzles, crayons, blocks, and stringing beads. As children gain more control over their movements, their fine motor skills will improve. 

6) Poor gross motor skills 
Children with autism can often have difficulty with gross motor skills, such as running, climbing stairs, or catching a ball. This can be due to sensory issues or other factors, such as difficulty interpreting physical cues and understanding the environment.  

Occupational therapists are often able to provide interventions and activities to help improve gross motor skills in children with autism. Parents can also find resources online to help their children learn the skills they need to feel confident in their abilities. 

7) Difficulty understanding and using language 
Sensory issues are common for children with autism. They can manifest as difficulty understanding and using language, difficulty making sense of their environment, and difficulty regulating emotions. Parents and caregivers must be attentive to these issues to ensure the child’s well-being. Early intervention is key to helping the child develop better-coping strategies. 

Autism spectrum disorders, often referred to as ASD, are characterized by communication difficulties, repetitive behaviors, and fixated interests. Sensory issues are common in children with autism as well, which can make life even more challenging than it already is for families affected by the disorder. While each child may have different sensory sensitivities, the following list details some of the most common ones that can be particularly problematic for children with autism.